Civil War print of General Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and General James Longstreet observing a sunset in Fredericksburg, Virginia in February of 1863 by artist Mort Kunstler.
Mort Künstler’s Comments
Lee, Jackson and Longstreet – those were the Confederate commanders who fascinate me the most. Perhaps there has never been a military leader like Robert E. Lee. Perhaps there never will be. How he valued and depended upon Stonewall Jackson, whom Lee praised as “his right arm.” And after Jackson, who would compare to Lee’s “Old War Horse” – General James Longstreet?
The last time these three remarkable Southern leaders were together was during the Fredericksburg Campaign of late 1862 and early 1863. They had just survived a terrible battle and had won a major victory at Fredericksburg and would soon go separate ways. Longstreet would be given kind of an independent command near Richmond, and Lee and Jackson would soon fight the Battle of Chancellorville – Lee’s greatest win and Jackson’s final battle. The days at Fredericksburg in early February of 1863 were the last times in which Longstreet joined Lee and Jackson.
I decided to paint the three at sunset. I had not done a sunset in any of my Civil War works, so the idea was not only appropriate but very appealing to me. Professor James I. Robertson, Jr. – the dean of Civil War historians – informed that the three commanders were together several times on staff reconnaissance during early 1863. I chose to place the painting in early February, shortly before Longstreet left for detached duty.
The terrain is typical of the Virginia woodlands near Fredericksburg. The hardwood forest has not leafed-out yet and adds a distant, somber tone to the background. Near the Confederate front line, Lee and Jackson – joined by Longstreet – observed the distant enemy from a broomstraw clearing amid a sparse stand of Virginia pines. There’s a golden glow to the setting, which I think is appropriate for the scene. Although they could not know it at the time, these three exceptional Confederate commanders were in the sunset of their time together. Chancellorsville, Lee’s greatest victory, would be followed by the decisive Southern defeat at Gettysburg, and the sunset of success would fall on the Confederacy.